2013 was a busy year for the Pixies, with the rather unexpected exit of founding member and bassist Kim Deal, followed soon after by a new single and then, before the year was over, a new EP too (not to mention a few re-castings for the bassist role). A few months later and only just missing out on 2013 by a few days, the imaginatively titled 'EP 2' was released, which will soon be followed by 'EP 3 - 5'.
These new releases mark a progression for the band from their late '80s/ early '90s heyday, with the most obvious progression being the exit of Deal, herself a traditionalist in the sense that she wished for The Pixies' near-immaculate legacy to be left alone, bar a few cash-in world tours. Her exit has finally allowed Black Francis, Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering to try out some of Black's new material and hopefully improve upon their enduring legacy.
With 'EP 1', the band brought us fluorescent pop combined with Black's usual surrealist lyrics, with the end result sadly being a wimpy example of a band out of good ideas, sounding more like Parasites than Pixies. For their second EP, the band have grown a pair and the end product is much more aggressive and more fitting to the visceral blueprint of the band. As good a sign this is, it is one that regrettably adds very little to what we heard last year.
Lead single and album opener 'Blue Eyed Hexe' begins well, with Black's spoken ramble hinting at the kind of reminiscent quality found on 'EP 1''s only saving grace 'Indie Cindie', but, by the time we reach the screaming chorus, our frontman sounds more like Brian Johnson than Black Francis as the song falls down that same trap of cliché hard rock. Like the Scot/Aussie granddad rockers, the Pixies have become the band new generations first hear about from the T-shirts they sold at HMV, before HMV closed down. After 10 years of touring, this makes sense really, and by the time the vapid 'Magdalena' goes by without much notice, Deal's decision to leave the band behind suddenly makes a whole lot more sense.
Luckily, 'Greens and Blues' manages to save the band some dignity, thanks mostly to Santiago's watery, distorted guitar complementing the tranquil delivery of Black's extraterrestrial-inspired lyrics. Like on all of the best Pixies songs, it's Santiago's six-string manipulation that can transform the band from a run of the mill indie outfit with a charismatic frontman into something exciting and diverse. On 'Greens and Blues' this is once again the case, but one song an EP does not make.
Last track 'Snakes' is an improvement. Again, it is Santiago pulling the song from the depths with his surf-cum-garage guitar duel with Black between verses preventing it from becoming too dull. Ultimately, though, barring these parts, the album closer is as much a dud as the opener.
We've got three more of these spaced-out mini-releases to come over the next year or so, which is a relief as it gives Black and co. time and space to get creative without worrying about producing something full length but, with that said, they've had at least ten years to get creative and all they've come up with is two decent songs spread over two poor EPs. Obviously, the band don't want to just rehash their old material and at least they're giving something new a try which is more than can be said for some aging rockers, but, regrettably, different doesn't necessarily mean good. At least they still have that early legacy.
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